The Curecanti National Recreation Area is synonymous with the Black Canyon Of The Gunnison National Park, so this vast public lands area simply must be experienced when touring the big park. In fact, a visitor must pass through this recreation area in order to access the north rim of Black Canyon, which is where some of the best scenic views can be found. Both developed campgrounds and dispersed camping areas can be found in Curecanti, which is a nice convenience to note when planning the trip.
When traveling on Highway 50, State Road 92 is the touring route to look for if visiting the North Rim Of Black Canyon is in the plans. This road first crosses Blue Mesa Dam and it parallels the Gunnison River all the way to the north rim, then it continues north through several picturesque scenic areas before heading west to Delta, Colorado. Delta is near the main Black Canyon National Park entrance in Montrose, so this actually is a very lengthy touring loop that offers all sorts of opportunities to explore the great outdoors. Good wildlife viewing opportunities abound all along this travel route, so be sure to bring a good camera along for the ride!
There are several Black Canyon scenic viewpoints to be found along SR 92 and the first stop is the Blue Mesa Dam Overlook. This scenic overlook provides unobstructed views of Blue Mesa Dam, Blue Mesa Lake and a very lengthy straight section of Black Canyon that fades out of sight to the west. There is protective fencing along this towering cliff, so the entire family can safely enjoy the views into this very deep gorge without fear of falling. Birds of prey and gigantic turkey buzzards ride the strong updrafts in this area that rise from the cool shadows of Black Canyon, which can be strong enough to knock a visitor off the their own footing, so it is easy to see why the fencing is in place. The views of Blue Mesa Dam are interesting to see and the picturesque western Rocky Mountain Range landscape extends to the horizon. From this viewpoint, it is easy to notice how this deep Gunnison River gorge is a natural obstacle like no other, which definitely required taking a very long way around before the Blue Mesa Dam causeway was built.
Blue Mesa Lake is actually part of the snow melt water reservoir system and the dam holds the seasonal flood waters back. On the downside, Blue Mesa Dam is part of an antiquated water management system that has caused environmental problems further downstream and it has stressed aquatic habitation to the point of extinction for many species. Fortunately the age of concrete and steel manufacturers that curried corrupt political favor for unnecessary infrastructure projects is coming to an end and some of the obsolete dams of the west are now planned to be removed.
The Blue Mesa Dam really is not much of a pretty sight to look at and the dark shadows of Black Canyon interfere with the finer details, but even so, this is a great spot to view the deep gorge when looking west. There are more Black Canyon overlooks along the road to the north rim that offer picnic areas and foot trails to creekside fishing spots, so better adventures await further down the line. Black Canyon must be experienced at least once in a lifetime and the Blue Mesa Dam certainly is the easy way to cross to the other side of this seemingly bottomless dark abyss!
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